This Year There Are No Excuses – Aston Villa Pre-Season Report
Wednesday, 2nd Aug 2017 12:15 by HarryFromBath
In the 21st of a series of pre-season reports, HarryfromBath assesses the mood around the Championship clubs by delving into their forums, looking here at how things have progressed at Villa Park this summer. All of the teams in the division will be covered by the start of the season.
“Now is the time, no excuses. If we fail this year our best players will leave and we will be marooned here for years”, “Anything other than a top-two finish is not an option and should not be tolerated”, “Time for this football club to stop messing around and deliver”, “I’m not confident at all right now.”
“The same old sit deep and hope.” Ask any Claret and Blue if they have one of the strongest squads in the division and they will readily agree. Ask them if it can deliver promotion and the response will be far more doubtful. The consensus is that their style of play and tactics are undermining the team.
“We will win more than we lose but anyone expecting entertainment can forget it. This is a classic Steve Bruce team”, “Last season the defence wasn’t a problem. The lack of a playing style or pattern of play was the problem and that won’t change with the current management team still in charge.”
“When was the last time a slow and ponderous team, with only one player that ever scored, got promoted?”, “I don’t see any evidence that we will storm this league”, “We will either romp home or Steve Bruce will be gone by October with us flailing. I honestly have no idea which one it will be.”
“I have zero confidence in Bruce”, “There is no hiding place for him once the season starts. He made a lot of changes in January and then had 10 games at the end of the season which were wasted”, “I have no faith in him, having had 35 games last season and still not knowing what formation to use.”
“Automatic promotion under Bruce? Dream on. The 56-year old former Birmingham City boss has been criticised for setting up the team too cautiously and with a stultifying style of play. Many fans think that this “tepid brand of football” will cost the team goals and victories through the campaign.
“All the same issues as last year”, “I would be more confident if I could see evidence that we might depart from the system that proved so ineffective last season”, “We don’t need an entire midfield to maintain security at the back”, “It will be very pedestrian meat-and-potatoes, nick-a-goal football.”
Some feel his methods are out of date. “Bruce’s approach worked at this level before, but times are changing and he looks increasingly dinosaur-like”, “The league has evolved a lot in recent years and managers like David Wagner, Jaap Stam and Slavisa Jokanovic are mixing it up and doing well.”
Players leaving the club this summer have in the main been on the fringes of the side or youth prospects. Goalkeeper Mark Bunn and striker Libor Kozak are free agents at the time of writing while midfielder Carlos Sanchez signed for Fiorentina having been on loan with the Serie A side.
Winger Carles Gil (returning to Deportivo La Coruna) and midfielder Aaron Tshibola (to Milton Keynes) have moved on season-long loans. Defenders Niall Mason (to Doncaster), Nathan Baker (to Bristol City) and midfielder Riccardo Calder (to Inverness Caledonian Thistle) have left permanently.
“Nothing we have done this summer has convinced me that we will score enough goals this year”, “It’s not a question of frightening the opposition in this league, it’s about doing the basics better, hence why we have gone for experience with John Terry, Glenn Whelan and Ahmed Elmohamedy.”
The arrival of 36-year-old John Terry from Chelsea has captured the headlines and fans believe that his leadership will make a huge difference. “Love him or loathe him, Terry is a winner. He won’t put up with poor performances from our players or hold back on telling them what they need to do.”
“Terry is a class act, so technically correct. It has been a long time since we had a central defender that good”, “The man can defend and also play when the need arises”, “While John Terry will take all the headlines, Glenn Whelan could end up being the pick of the bunch. He looks a good addition.”
“I was talking to a Stoke fan today and he was raving about Whelan.” The 33-year-old arrival from the Potters “put through more dangerous balls in half-an hour against Watford than I have seen Jack Grealish do in half a season”, “His passing is very good and he is a better player than Mile Jedinak.”
“Ahmed Elmohamody is decent in the air for a winger.” The 29-year-old played for Bruce at former club Hull. “He wastes no time in getting crosses in”, “He looks very athletic both when defending and bombing forward, but we won’t solve our goalscoring problems by adding only him to the squad.”
While these three additions have generated most comment among West Midlanders, two other notable players to arrive this summer are keeper Sam Johnstone, 24, returning on a season-long loan having previously been on loan at Villa Park from January and 33-year-old former QPR defender Chris Samba.
An Indifferent Pre-Season
Villa kicked-off their warm-up programme with two victories recorded by different XIs on the same evening over Telford (4-0) and Kidderminster (3-0). The three 90-minute games played since have seen a 2-1 defeat at Shrewsbury and two scoreless draws, at Walsall and at home to Watford on Saturday.
The starting XI (above) for Saturday’s Graham Taylor tribute match against the Hornets was set out in with three midfielders and one up front. One missing player Claret and Blues are desperate to see back is striker Jonathan Kodjia who injured his ankle in last season’s penultimate game at Blackburn.
Bruce left the back four intact throughout the warm-up games but the finishing line-up (above) gives an idea of the other midfield options available. “All the same issues as last year”, “We struggled to get enough men forward and that was the fault of Jack Grealish, Henri Lansbury and Andre Green.”
The Lack of Goals
“The positive thing I learned from the Watford game is that under 1.5 goals per game is going to be the bet of the season concerning us”, “We couldn’t score against Walsall. How far have we fallen?”, “We have one of the top three defences in the division but there’s a real lack of goals in that squad.”
“We struggle to create chances and there is no pace in the side.” The widely held view among fans is that success this season is contingent on Bruce getting the attacking balance of the side right. “The lack of creativity is more of a concern. We don’t look like we can create many chances in a game.”
“We really need Kodjia back as we look toothless without him.” The return of Jonathan Kodjia is seen as vital. “Apart from Kodjia it’s hard to see where the goals will come from”, “Nothing we have done this pre-season has convinced me that we will score enough goals to get promoted this season.”
There are a good number of active Aston Villa forums. Heroes and Villains has many informed contributors and is quite straightforward to navigate around.
Photo: Action Images
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